How many ways are there to say "pissed off," "outraged," "travesty of justice"?
If I neglect to use any in this post about today's horribly political, uninformed, slanted decision by the Marion County Board of Commissioners on an appeal of a Measure 37 subdivision in our neighborhood, please add them on your own.
[Update: The Salem Statesman Journal ran a front page story about the atrocious decision today (Thursday).
It begins: "Marion County commissioners ignored their own planning commission and scientific reviewer on Wednesday when they approved a 42-home subdivision in a limited-groundwater area in the hills south of Salem."]
This morning Patti Milne and Sam Brentano, two Republican commissioners who are remarkably unashamed at showing their abhorrence for facts and love for development, no matter the cost to people already living in an area, voted to allow 42 lots on 137 acres in a groundwater limited area.
My wife and I have been leading a fight against this subdivision. We were pleased when a Hydro Review study conducted by the Measure 37 claimant (Leroy Laack) was failed by an independent hydrogeologist peer reviewer.
In other words, Laack failed to show that there was enough water to supply the subdivision without harming surrounding wells and springs. Under the Marion County groundwater ordinance, this should have triggered a one to two year Hydro Study that involves the collection of additional information via well monitoring, drilling of test wells, and such.
To her credit, commissioner Janet Carlson recognized this. She pushed to follow the ordinance and require a study. She was outvoted. Her final words were:
I'm very concerned about what this may portend for the area.
Yeah, us too. Except we're way more concerned, because we and the forty other people who have contributed to the Keep Our Water Safe Committee live out here and depend on wells. Without water, our homes are virtually worthless.
But this didn't matter to Milne and Brentano, who have never met a subdivision they didn't like, even if an independent report says "There's no evidence it won't harm existing water users." It was obvious from the outset that they were out to ignore reams of facts and blindly give Laack whatever he wanted.
I felt like screaming, watching Milne and Brentano mangle what should have been an open, rational, deliberative process. When Carlson painted them into illogical corners, you could see their pinhead conservative brains struggling to figure out how to ignore reality and get back to their dogmatic anti-neighborhood agenda.
It was painful. The public has every right to expect a hell of a lot more from elected officials.
The Marion County Planning Commission approved 27 lots but said that a Hydro Review had to be conducted before the subdivision could move forward. Laack, the Measure 37 applicant, agreed to conduct the Review, saying "I wouldn't go ahead with the development if it was going to harm the water supply of neighbors." (Yeah, right. More bullshit from a guy who I bet won't keep his word).
The Hydro Review was failed by a peer reviewer hired by Marion County. This plain and obvious fact kept being pointed out by Janet Carlson, but she was speaking to the deaf ears of astoundingly clueless Milne and Brentano.
Milne kept talking about "dueling hydrogeologists" hired by Laack and the Keep Our Water Safe Committee. She didn't grasp that the peer review process is how conflicting opinions are resolved. In this case, in our favor. Again, Marion County's groundwater ordinance requires that a Hydro Study be conducted if a Hydro Review is failed.
However, Milne and Brentano's sole goal was to get the subdivision vested before the Measure 37 fix that's been referred for a likely November vote is enacted. They didn't care about whether neighboring wells go dry, or whether they're following the Planning Department rules.
Many times I felt like throwing my notebook at them and storming out of the hearing room with a loud This is horseshit! Which, it was. Brentano and Milne had no valid reasons for approving the subdivision other than their own 100% pro-development, anti-environment political philosophy.
We and our neighbors figured that even the notoriously conservative Marion County Commissioners wouldn't be so crass as to ignore an official peer-reviewed conclusion that inadequate water supply evidence is available to justify approving the subdivision.
But they surprised us. Brentano and Milne were even more dismissive of the rights of property owners currently living in the area than I expected. Come election time, voters need to keep this in mind. They only care about their next contribution from the Asphalt and Concrete Manufacturers' Rape the Earth Fund—not whether our wells go dry.
We're hoping to get some help from 1000 Friends of Oregon for an appeal. They owe us more than a little assistance, because this case is a poster child for why the Measure 37 fix (HB 3540) is desperately needed.
It was pointed out today that if the fix is approved, only three homes would be allowed on a Measure 37 claim on groundwater limited land. Yet the Marion County Commissioners just approved 42 homes on lots averaging three acres in an area where five acres is considered necessary to support a well.
Lesson: you can't count on politicians who suck on the pro-development teat to protect the property rights of those who live near a Measure 37 claim, even when an independent study says "There's not enough water."
Some people are immune to reason and facts. George Bush is one. Sam Brentano and Patti Milne are two.
At times today I felt like throwing in the towel. But that would be letting the purveyors of bullshit have the last word, and I don't think I'm willing to do that.
We'll do our best to stop this subdivision and protect our groundwater. As one of the folks on our side said this morning, "Karma is going to come back and bite Milne, Brentano, and Laack."
I agree. You can get away with greedy ignorant selfishness only for so long. The universe has a way of making things right in the end. Come this fall, I'm expecting that one of those ways will be passage of the Measure 37 fix.
Then, we need to get Milne and Brentano out of office. They're an embarrassment both to Marion County and open-minded Republicans.